DIASPORA SACCOS THRIVE ON INCREASED REMITTANCES

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By Joseph Macharia

As remittances from Kenyans working abroad continue to grow, diaspora Saccos have emerged as key players in strengthening the Kenyan co-operative movement. They   have been very effective vehicles in   mobilizing savings. Additionally, they have   instilled a vibrant savings culture among Kenyan citizens living abroad who are keen on investing in their motherland.

According to the Sacco Societies Regulatory Authority (SASRA), in the period ending 2022, three non-withdrawable deposit taking (NWDT) Saccos were authorized to mobilize membership and subscription from residents abroad. They were: the Kenya USA Diaspora Regulated NWDT Sacco, Grand Granite Regulated NWDT Sacco and Stroke – UK Diaspora Regulated NWDT Sacco. The authorization indicates   a growing demand for their products and services.

Remittances

Data from the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) indicate that diaspora remittances in the first quarter of 2024 amounted to US$ 1.2 billion. This was an increase of 18.8 per cent  from a similar period in 2023.Kenya’s diaspora remittances peaked US$ 4.19 billion by end of 2023, compared to 4.028 billion dollars in 2022 – an increase of 4 percent. With increased inflow of remittances from abroad, diaspora Saccos are expected flourish.

In the last decade, these Saccos have grown by leaps and bounds rivaling other financial institutions like commercial banks. Their emergence has allowed members to access savings, loans and investment products. Initially, Kenyans living abroad were saving mainly through investment clubs and relatives. The latter would occasionally end up disappointing them.

Diaspora Saccos

Diaspora Saccos started by Kenyans have sprouted in the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Germany, among other developed countries. Notable players include: the Kenya North America Diaspora Sacco, Kenya Germany Diaspora Sacco, Kenya Canada Diaspora Sacco, Kenya USA Diaspora Sacco, Stoke UK Diaspora Non-DT Sacco, Kenya Qatar Diaspora Sacco and Kenya Australia Diaspora Investment Cooperative Society.

Majority of them allow deposit of funds through a wide range of money transfer services such as: M-Pesa, Paypal, Western Union, MoneyGram and local bank RTGs among others.

In 2023, the co-operative movement launched a Kshs. 800 million technology platform dubbed CoopTech that is set to boost the security of depositors’ funds through a shared platform. The platform is expected to be used by all Saccos.

The media is rife with cases of Kenyans living abroad entrusting their hard-earned money with their siblings and other close   relatives only for their money to be siphoned through phony projects. Diaspora Saccos have effectively filled that gap.

Diaspora remittances are now Kenya’s largest foreign exchange earner, earning the country more than coffee, tea and horticulture. And with the government trained on encouraging more remittances, the diaspora Saccos are set to play a pivotal role in boosting the dollar basket in the country.

CBK recognizes the importance of remittances to the nation’s economic growth. Due to the huge sums involved, remittances are now being recognized as an important contributor to the country’s overall growth and development.

Just like the government, Saccos have   seen the huge potential of Kenyans living abroad, hence developing products and services for them. It is therefore anticipated new players will continue making an entry into the lucrative market.

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